Tuesday, 30 July 2013

It Worked

Craig, Huw, Ian and Me were back at the Swallow roost again this evening itching to see whether the newly cut ride would work, and it did! There were less Swallows coming in, which was expected given the weather over the past couple of days, perhaps only about 800 and we managed to ring more than last time out; evidence that the new ride worked.


We ringed 80 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Reed Warbler - 1 (1)
Swallow - 79

We also controlled two Swallows that have been safely input into IPMR but if L863614 or D466408 are yours please let me know.

What was also interesting last night was the number of adults amongst the juveniles. Normally when the roost is made up of large numbers of Swallows the percentage of adults is low. However, when the roost starts to decrease in size or break up due to poor weather the percentage of adults in the catch increases. Based just upon the birds that I handled below are the percentage of adults ringed by date:

18th July - 6%
21st July - 0%
24th July - 0%
29th July - 22%

On 18th July the roost was just starting to build, 21st & 24th at its peak, and 29th July numbers had reduced as stated above due to inclement weather. This is probably due to a number of factors; the ratio of adults to juveniles moving that day, juveniles less likely to move when the weather is poor and perhaps that the adults have learnt that there is a safe roosting place and are prepared to travel further even when the weather is unsettled.

Prior to us commencing our Swallow catch a Peregrine flew past us carrying prey; a Swallow perhaps? We will be back at the Swallow roost again later in the week, but how well we'll catch will depend on what the weather is like between now and then. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Reed Bunts Replace Whitethroats

It was the second session in a row this morning in the reedbeds that a single species dominated our catch and this time it was the turn of the Reed Bunting. The conditions were perfect for mist netting with no wind and slightly overcast skies to reduce glare on the nets, but the totals ringed informed us that birds had moved out and we now await fresh migrants to come through.

 Reed Bunting

Ian and I ringed 19 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Reed Warbler - 3 (2)
Sedge Warbler - 1
Great Tit - 1
Reed Bunting - 10
Dunnock - 1
Whitethroat - 2 (1)
Chiffchaff - 1


It is no surprise to learn that as the ringing was quiet the birding was too. Of interest we had five Grey Herons, a high flying calling Dunlin, six Snipe, two Sand Martins and six Pied Wagtails.

There is an expression that only 'mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun', and maybe that should be changed to ringers as Craig, Ian and I were out in the midday sun extending the net ride at the Swallow roost. However we won't be able to put our extension to the test tonight as it is forecast for some heavy rain, so we are keeping our fingers crossed for tomorrow evening. Having said that the forecast for the next few days is changeable so we'll have to wait and see.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

More And Less

It's more ringing and Swallows I'm afraid because it's a case of 'making hay whilst the sun shines', and we need to take advantage of these calm conditions to get mist nets up.

Craig, Ian and I were at the Swallow roost again last night and we had more roosting, approximately 2,000 birds, but we ringed less. The main reason for this is that the birds are going in to roost further on from where our nets are set up. This is usually the case, but generally the MP3 player with Swallow song on calls them to where the nets are. I think with the increase in birds and all the excited calls prior to roost they are paying less attention to the MP3, or in fact might not be hearing it as well over the commotion of the birds, and are therefore not coming down to investigate the 'super singing' Swallow.

We ringed 39 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Swallow - 31
Reed Warbler - 4
Sand Martin - 3
Sedge Warbler - 1 (2)

To try and ensure we ring more Swallows next time out we are going to extend the existing net ride towards where the birds are roosting and hopefully this should increase our catch. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 22 July 2013

A Few More Swallows

Craig, Huw, Ian and I 'worked' the Swallow roost again last evening and we had quite a good session. On Saturday evening there had been over a thousand Swallows roosting again but we weren't certain if there would be as many last night. During clear, calm conditions the roost tends to build up as more Swallows are on the move, but as soon as the conditions change leading to less Swallows moving the roost starts to break up. It had been an overcast, breezier and cooler kind of day yesterday and this is why we wondered whether there would be quite as many Swallows roosting. We needn't have worried!

In the end there must have been at least a thousand Swallows roosting with a few Sand Martins mixed in and we ringed 74 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Sand Martin - 5
Swallow - 66
Sedge Warbler - 2
Reed Warbler - 1 (3)

We caught the two old Reed Warblers again and after being 'missing' for some time they aren't any more!

Fingers crossed that the roost will last for a while so we can ring a good few Swallows. What we have found is that as soon as maize on farms is at a similar height to Common Reed in reedbeds the roost will break up. When I first started ringing thirty years ago there was not nearly as much maize grown round here and the Swallows would roost in reedbeds and at this particular reedbed would sometimes have 10,000 Swallows roosting. Happy days!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

All At Sea

I knew high tide wasn't until 10.30 a.m. today but I still decided to have a look at the sea off the obs. As I got there just after first light I realised that I wouldn't see too many waders as it was unlikely that I would still be watching the sea at high tide. It was cooler than recent days and during the two and a half hours I was there I had a more or less constant very light drizzle.

Although I didn't see many waders I did have four Curlews, 79 Oystercatchers, my first returning Grey Plovers numbering twenty and heading west, 22 Turnstones and a Redshank.

As I walked west along the front a Ringed Plover alarm called from the shingle beach and then it was on the promenade doing a distraction display to lead me away from its nest or young. On the golf course I also had my first Golden Plover for the autumn as a single bird fed on the fairways.

Ringed Plover doing it's distraction display

There was a little vis this morning in the form of an Alba Wag west and two Swifts west. In fact there were a number of Swifts at sea and I had a further 35 flying east into the bay.

The sea itself produced 36 Manx Shearwaters, seven Gannets, four Sandwich Terns, 26 Common Scoters and an Atlantic Grey Seal.

We're having another ringing session at the Swallow roost this evening, so I'll let you know how we got on tomorrow.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Over Two Dozen Nettle Creepers

Ian and I were ringing at one of the reedbeds this morning and driving down to the site in calm conditions with clear skies we spotted a member of the local constabulary demonstrating how stretched, hard working, not able to move because of paperwork, value for taxpayers money he was by sleeping in his van!!! I had another example of this a couple of years ago where a literally 'sleeping policeman' was blocking my access to the obs and I had to tap on the window (tempted to bang) and ask him to move! Anyway, on with the birds.

At first it seemed as though we wouldn't catch too well this morning as it 'felt' quiet and on the second round (usually the busiest) we only caught a couple of birds. However it picked up and we ringed 43 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Dunnock - 1
Whitethroat - 23 (2)
Reed Warbler - 2 (2)
Blackcap - 1
Robin - 1
Sedge Warbler - 3
Greenfinch - 10
Reed Bunting - 1 (1)
Song Thrush - 1 


Of course the 'nettle creepers' in my title refers to the Whitethroats that we caught and since the 7th July we have ringed 39 Whitethroats at this site!


From a birding perspective it was fairly quiet and my notebook records four Lapwings, four Linnets, two Sand Martins, a Snipe, a Stock Dove, seven Goldfinches and a Little Egret.

 Sedge Warbler

It's looking a tad breezy for some more ringing at the obs tomorrow, other than for Swallows at the roost in the evening, so it will be a look on the sea for me I think.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Swallows and Old Reed Warblers

No pictures today I'm afraid as it was a little busy ringing Swallows yesterday evening. First of all Ian and I had to cut a 100 foot by 10 feet net ride through the reeds in the sweltering heat and I must have sweated a few pounds off I can tell you! Work completed, we put the nets up, put the MP3 players on and waited.

It was difficult to estimate how many Swallows were actually coming in because the view over the reedbed is obscured by some trees and we went in to extract the Swallows before they had gone to roost so that we didn't catch too many as there was only two of us. Having said all that I think there must have been somewhere in the region of a 1,000 - 1,500 birds roosting.

We managed to ring 61 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Swallow - 56 (4)
Sand Martin - 1
Reed Warbler - 2 (2)
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Bunting - 1

The four Swallow recaptures were all controls and details have been entered into the BTO's Integrated Population Monitoring Reporter (IPMR) so it will be interesting to see where they have come from. Having said that if D006682, D006621, D006680 and Y782898 are yours please let me know.

The two Reed Warbler recaptures were very interesting. One was originally ringed in 2006 and the other in 2005 at one of our other reedbed sites close by. At the time of ringing they were both aged as adults which makes them respectively at least eight and nine years old!  The 2006 bird hadn't been recaptured again until last night and the 2005 bird was recaptured in 2011 and 2012. It is fascinating to think how many times these birds weighing 11.5 g have crossed the Sahara, mind boggling!

Thursday, 18 July 2013


I had a pleasant job this morning and this was surveying some hedgerows for a farmer client of mine who wanted to restore a number of his hedges over the next five years. He isn't being funded for this but wants to make sure that his hedgerows remain good for wildlife and provide shelter for stock in wet, windy or hot weather. The farm is a dairy farm and on such farms as the grassland is such a premium it is in the hedgerows that the farmer can encourgae wildlife.

I spent an enjoyable couple of hours this morning walking along the length of seven hedgerows in total and coming up with a species composition for the hedges, noting when they can be layed, suggesting some hedgerow tree species for small gaps and coming up with a list of species to plant in larger gaps.

 A couple of the typical hedgerows (above & below) that I surveyed this

As well as having one eye on the hedge I was surveying, I also had one eye looking out for birds and both ears listening out! I came across a couple of young Coal Tits in a mature hedge/ribbon of woodland alongisde a stream and a Chiffchaff sang here as well as from a block of woodland further on. The only butterflies I had on the wing this morning were a couple each of Small Tortoiseshells and Small Whites.

I had a number of Brown Hares, 12 in total, and in one field I had a group of eight. The only other mammal I saw was a Roe Deer in a field of Wheat.

It is very much raptor weather at the moment with the hot sun causing thermals for them to soar on and this morning I had two Buzzards making use of such thermals. One of the Buzzards was joined by a Grey Heron and the pair of them thermalled to a great height.

On one particular stretch of hedgerow with a number of mature Oak trees in it I came across a monster Tit flock consisiting of 41 Long-tailed Tits, 13 Blue Tits and two Great Tits. I had a single Nuthatch calling from some woodland and a single Skylark singing from a field of Wheat.

It's a bit of reed cutting for Ian and I this evening, hopefully followed by some Swallow ringing. A small roost, c. 1,000 birds, has formed in one of the reedbeds and over the next couple of weeks if the roost builds we should be able to ring a few. I'll keep you posted as always.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

June Ringing Totals

Over on the right I have updated the totals for Fylde Ringing Group for 2013 up until the end of June. We have ringed 1,347 birds of 56 species so far, which is 272 down on this time last year. New species for the year ringed in June were Shelduck, Kestrel, Ringed Plover and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

The top five species ringed in June were as follows:

1. Pied Flycatcher - 56
2. Great Tit - 33
3. Blue Tit - 31
4. Tree Sparrow - 18
5. Reed Warbler - 11

The top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year so far are:

1. Willow Warbler - 115 (up from 2nd)
    Chaffinch - 115 (down from 1st)
    Goldfinch - 115 (down from 2nd)
4. Tree Sparrow - 81 (up from 8th)
5. Lesser Redpoll - 79 (down from 4th)
6. Great Tit - 77 (up from 10th)
7. Blue Tit - 66 (straight in)
8. Pied Flycatcher - 58 (straight in)
9. Meadow Pipit - 56 (down from 5th)
    Reed Bunting - 56 (down from 5th)

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Back In The Reeds

Ian and I were back in the reeds this morning and the alarm call wasn't any earlier! We had perfect conditions for operating mist nets with no wind and two oktas cloud cover. Part of the reedbed is very wet and we still can't access that area easily so three nets were put up in the reeds and willow scrub.

 Great Tit

We managed to ring a further 32 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Great Tit - 3
Reed Warbler - 3 (4)
Blue Tit - 3
Whitethroat - 7 (1)
Dunnock - 1
Wren - 3
Willow Warbler - 6
Greenfinch - 4 (1)
Reed Bunting - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 1

 Lesser Whitethroat

The birding was less exciting with just two Snipe, five Lapwings, ten Swifts, four Greenfinches, 21 Pied Wagtails, three Linnets and seven Goldfinches.


I need to update Fylde Ringing Groups totals up until the end of June and let you know the details of some interesting recoveries we recently received from the BTO so I'll do that in the next few days.

 Willow Warbler

Monday, 8 July 2013

The Early Bird (Ringer) Catches The......Well Erm......Birds!

It was an early start yesterday morning for Ian and Me, but not as early as it could be as we met at the reedbeds at 4.30 a.m. We could have made it 4.00 a.m. but setting your alarm for 3.30 a.m. is so uncivilised and for some reasons, psychological (?), a 4.00 a.m. alarm call feels better!

 Sedge Warbler

Driving towards the reedbeds I had my first bird for the morning in the form of a Barn Owl hunting the rank grassland and plantation woodland alongside the road and a party of Swifts feeding low down on aerial insects that hadn't gained any height as yet in the cooler early morning air. It was a pleasant start to what turned out to be a good morning.

 Reed Warbler

A few Swallows were exiting the roost, but it was difficult to tell how many, and this did reemphasise the fact that it is indeed Autumn. Another autumnal bird was a Grey Wagtail that flew into the pools to feed. Other than that the birding was slow but the ringing certainly wasn't. We ringed 45 birds of 14 species as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Reed Warbler - 8
Robin - 2
Goldfinch - 3
Sedge Warbler - 2 (1)
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Whitethroat - 9 (1)
Greenfinch - 10
Wren - 1
Willow Warbler - 1
Blackbird - 1
Blue Tit - 2
Chaffinch - 1
Blackcap - 1
Chiffchaff - 3 


I have a busy week work wise this week, so I might struggle to get out before work, but I will certainly try!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

More Prep

I had a late start this morning and didn't get to the obs until 0620. I had clear skies with a light west-southwesterly breeze. I didn't expect much, and my expectations were realised, but it was just good to be out on the patch again.

First up was a Kestrel carrying prey and heading towards the box where we ringed five chicks from in mid-June, so hopefully they are all thriving. I didn't have any other raptors, in fact I had very little at all, and the only things just about worth mentioning were 11 Woodpigeons heading north, a singing Willow Warbler, three singing male Reed Buntings, two Linnets, 14 Goldfinches and two Sedge Warblers.

I had a look on the sea but had nothing at all. Well I gave it ten minutes, had nothing and carried on walking. As I had my tools with me I foolishly decided to prepare three of the net rides without the strimmer! I got the job done and in the heat it gave me one hell of a work out!

The forecast is good for tomorrow so it will be one heck of an early alarm call for a ringing session in the reedbed. I'll let you know how we get on.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Reed Cutting

It's that time of year again when gardening duties call and mist net rides need a hair cut. Ian and I headed to the reedbed yesterday evening and spent a good hour trimming the willows and cutting the reeds. The net rides were still fairly open as we had used them in the Spring, but they weren't open enough to enable to put mist nets up.

Below are before and after shots in one of the rides (apologies for them being a little dark).



The forecast for the weekend is looking good in terms of wind strength so hopefully I'll get some ringing done. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

North To The Land Of The Bonxies

Gail and I have just returned from a week on Orkney and what a fantastic week we had. Although not strictly a birding holiday we did spend some time birding as well as looking round all the amazing archaeological sites. Rather than ramble on in words I have just included a few pictures below of some of the birds we encountered. And even though I have used the word 'Bonxie' in the title I didn't manage to get any pictures of them. However, we encountered them everywhere and at first it seemed a bit surreal to see them flying over agricultural land when I am used to seeing them when I am staring into the teeth of a westerly gale!

 Atlantic Grey Seal. We came across this young animal whilst walking
round Hoxa Head.

Black Guillemots. We saw these at several sites.

Common Gull. Although this was an adult is was quite novel seeing
chicks at several locations.

Fulmars. We came across Fulmars anywhere there was any half decent nest
sites for them.

Guillemots at Marwick Head.

Lapwing. There were good numbers of breeding waders, mainly Curlew 
and Oystercatcher.

Distant Long-tailed Duck, quite a good record for June on Orkney.

Oystercatcher was b y far the commonest breeding wader.

Agitated Redshank guarding young.

Juvenile Wheatear. We encountered Wheatears all along the coast
along with Rock Pipits.


It's back to normal now and I can't wait to get back out at the obs now that autumn is here!